Martin Truex Jr. could do little to hide the disappointment on his face.
Moments after finishing second to Denny Hamlin in Sunday’s STP 400 at Kansas Speedway, Truex climbed out of his No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota and spoke with FOX Sports pit reporter Dr. Dick Berggren.
“I know we're going to get our win,” Truex said, a wistful look on his face. “I just hate giving 'em away like that.”
Truex had good reason to be frustrated. The Mayetta, N.J. native clearly had the dominant car all day long, leading 173 of the first 236 laps of the 267-lap event. All race long, Truex was great on restarts and his crew was top notch on pit road.
During the second half of the race, Truex withstood withering pressure from five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and held him off, even as Johnson’s crew chief Chad Knaus insisted Truex would make a mistake if pressured.
But when Truex pitted for the final time on Lap 224, he found the set of tires he got not to his liking, which caused his car to go wrecking loose. That, in turn, allowed Hamlin to gradually catch him and then pass him for good on Lap 267.
Truex fought back valiantly, attempting to make bold passes with three laps to go and on the final lap. He had to settle for second place and move up to second in points on a day when MWR teammates Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer both retired with broken engines. Still, not winning was a bitter pill to swallow.
“I guess if we can be this disappointed with second it shows how far we've come as a race team,” said Truex. “Just really proud of everybody at MWR and Toyota for helping us get where we are. The NAPA team was phenomenal today. Just not really sure what to think about that last set of tires. Car had been really good all day, put the last set on and I was wrecking loose for the first 20 laps of that last run, and Denny was able to get by me and once he did the race was over.”
Overall, Truex reckoned it was a good day, second place be damned.
“As disappointed as I am with this second place, this is a big day for us as a team,” Truex said. “It's kind of a statement for us that we're here for the long haul, we're here for the rest of the season. This isn't — we're not just a flash in the pan. We've been solid each week, and I know our wins are going to come, we just need to keep running like we are. It's been a long time since I've won, and I know I'm capable of it, and that's the most disappointing thing is letting one slip away today.”
In eight starts this season, Truex already has three top-five finishes and six top 10s. A victory can’t be too far away at this rate.
“I really enjoy working with this team,” said Truex. “They're doing a phenomenal job. I can't even tell you how much fun we're having to be honest. Once I get over the defeat in a few hours, I'm going to look at all the positives, and there's a lot of positives we can take out of this weekend and so far this season. We're not near as good as we can be yet, and we're going to keep pushing forward and try to keep getting better. I know our wins are going to come soon.”
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.